The town of Indianapolis, Indiana had settled into a nice round number of about 200,000 people by 1914, placing it alongside such luminary towns as Louisville, Kentucky, Providence, Rhode Island, and St. Paul, Minnesota, yet far behind the major metropolises of Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia. And yet despite its somewhat middling metroplex status, the city was awarded one of the 6 Federal League franchises that year. It was to be a partnership between Tulsa, Oklahoma oil baron Harry Sinclair and a conglomerate of Indianapolis businessmen.
The Federal League was primarily made up of washed-up journeymen and untested rookies, but more than a few players made the jump from Major League Baseball to the new league, lured by high salaries and a laxer schedule. Unfortunately, only one of the big timers signed with Indianapolis, Cleveland Indians ace Cy Falkenberg. Instead, they relied primarily on hot Yankee prospect Benny Kauff; former Yankee second baseman standout Frank LaPorte; and the reasonably well-tuned Brooklyn Robins centerfielder Vin Campbell.
With the help of an astounding 25-16, 377 inning season from Falkenberg, an electric 47 steal season from journeyman Bill McKechnie (who would later enter the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame as a World Series-winning manager), and highlight reel years from Campbell, Laporte, and 21 year old rookie Edd Roush (another Hall of Famer), the team managed to finish first in the league, a game and a half in front of the contending Chicago Whales.
But the real story of the Indianapolis Hoosiers' one year in the big leagues was Benny Kauff. Kauff created a sensation throughout the season with his tough-nosed play and heads-up batting and baserunning, earning him the nickname "the Ty Cobb of the Federal League." He eventually led the league in batting with a .370 clip, swiping 75 bases in the meantime, also tops. Kauff's season is perhaps one of the greatest rookie seasons of all of baseball, and yet you've probably never heard of him. Why? Well, after three years in Major League Baseball, Kauff was arrested for allegedly stealing a car and then selling it. Despite being found not guilty in court for the offense, Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Kauff from the game for life, and true to his word, Kauff never played another game.
However, despite their solid pennant win, the city business conglomerate fell apart, Sinclair bought up the rest of the team, and it was unceremoniously moved to Newark, New Jersey (population 250,000) and renamed the Peppers for the 1915 season. And so the Hoosiers disappeared into the record books, a mere footnote in the inaugural season of the league that decided to fight back.